Phenotypic constraints and community structure: Linking trade-offs within and among species

Amy L. Angert, Sarah Kimball, Megan Peterson, Travis E. Huxman, David L. Venable

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Trade-offs are central to many topics in biology, from the evolution of life histories to ecological mechanisms of species coexistence. Trade-offs observed among species may reflect pervasive constraints on phenotypes that are achievable given biophysical and resource limitations. If so, then among-species trade-offs should be consistent with trade-offs within species. Alternatively, trait variation among co-occurring species may reflect historical contingencies during community assembly rather than within-species constraints. Here, we test whether a key trade-off between relative growth rate (RGR) and water-use efficiency (WUE) among Sonoran Desert winter annual plants is apparent within four species representing different strategies in the system. We grew progeny of maternal families from multiple populations in a greenhouse common garden. One species, Pectocarya recurvata, displayed the expected RGR-WUE trade-off among families within populations. For other species, although RGR and WUE often varied clinally among populations, among-family variation within populations was lacking, implicating a role for past selection on these traits. Our results suggest that a combination of limited genetic variation in single traits and negative trait correlations could pose constraints on the evolution of a high-RGR and high-WUE phenotype within species, providing a microevolutionary explanation for phenotypes that influence community-level patterns of abundance and coexistence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3149-3165
Number of pages17
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1 2014


  • Community assembly
  • G-matrix
  • Genetic correlation
  • Growth rate
  • Stress tolerance
  • Water-use efficiency
  • Winter annual plants

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Genetics
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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